Enjoying a 'good ole days' moment

The color photo of the 1966 Pontiac GTO in St. Joseph realtor Donald Kamp’s collection shows a dark blue convertible with a light blue top. The unusual combination of colors caught Dar’s eye when he was recently recycling applications sent to him during the 13-year run of the Lake Bluff Concours that concluded in 2017. A light blue convertible top is unusual as most convertibles at the time had either black or white canvas tops.

It’s taken some time, about a year and a half, but I’m finally getting around to clearing my upstairs of files and my basement of paraphernalia from the now-departed Concours car show. Being a recycler of the first order, naturally I didn’t want to just throw away 13 years of paper records without first going through the old applications dating back to the first Concours in 2005. Nearly every application was a two-sheeter with two or three photographs, all attached with a paperclip. I didn’t think the recycle center would appreciate a big load of paper in the recycle bin with lots of paperclips so I went through each one and retrieved them for my future use. I have a lot of paperclips. I’m estimating that there were over 1,000 applications all together.

Doing this project over the past week or so, I relived a lot of old memories as I spotted familiar owner names. During the course of the Concours I met hundreds of really wonderful people, first when it was a project of the Krasl Art Center and later when it was affiliated with the Caring Circle (Hospice) operation after the fundraiser was disinvited to participate under the Krasl’s auspices. The owners all shared a deep interest in automobiles. There were all types. Some were the variety who liked to get their hands greasy restoring their vehicle. Others, like me, were those who thought of a beautiful automobile as a fabulous work of art – a rolling sculpture that just happened to have four, and sometimes only three, wheels – and bought them just for the pleasure of looking at them. It was a bonus that they could get from Point A to Point B in stunning style, not if they could go from 0 to 60 in 5.0 seconds.

During the recycling effort, I came across a number of interesting items that owners had attached to their application. Items that were not required according to the rules, but because of the owner’s pride. They often included narratives of how they acquired their vehicle or maybe a copy of dealership brochures that was produced for the vehicle listed in the application.

One application in particular jumped right out and spoke to me. It was submitted by local car collector and well-known real estate broker Don Kamp. Don at the time owned a number of collector cars and in 2006 submitted his beautifully restored 1966 Pontiac GTO convertible. What made me stop and spend time with this particular application from Don were two things. First was seeing a muscle car from the 1960s with a light blue canvas roof and second was an attached sheet that that listed all the options on the car and the price the original owner paid for them. At first I thought the sheet was the Monroney window sticker that automakers were required to post on all new cars, usually affixed to the rear side window. But Don’s sheet is missing a lot of information normally associated with the Monroney, so not sure how it ended up in Don’s records on the car. It doesn’t matter its origin, I was just glad Don sent it along with his application because I got a lot of enjoyment looking it over. I had long forgotten the days when a new car, especially a non-luxury car like a mid-sized Pontiac, came with very little equipment that was standard. Only high-end luxury models had standard automatic transmissions. Pricey air conditioning was installed on only a small percentage of cars. Even typical “power” equipment like steering, brakes, windows, etc. were extra cost.

Don’s GTO was bought 14 years ago. It’s frame-off restoration is 15 years old and was subcontracted by high-end classic car dealer Fraser Dante Limited in Missouri. Under the hood is Pontiac’s ubiquitous 389 cu. in. V-8. Don has thinned out his collection and at the moment, in addition to the GTO, has in his stable a 1930 Ford Model A pickup given to him two years ago by his now 92-year-old father who had owned it for over 50 years, and a 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible. Longtime readers may recall a column I wrote about Don and his Chevy many years ago. The beautiful convertible was a surprise Father’s Day gift (15 years ago today!) from his wife, Diana, and his daughters Katy and Molly, for his birthday.

Don’s GTO was sold to the car’s original owner at Kamback Motors in Webster, South Dakota. It manufacturer’s suggested retail price was $3,082, free of options. Destination charges were $89.87. Options on the car totalled $1,006.95, and it made a final sticker price of $4,178.82. Standard items included deluxe steering wheel, power operated top, dual horns, floor carpet, courtesy lamps, red line tires and Strato bucket seats. It’s discovering those $1,006.95 optional items on the list that entertained me. When was the last time you saw a factory option on a Monroney window sticker with prices like $2.53 for door edge guards, $1.68 for a vanity mirror on the visor, $2.79 for the glove box lamp and $6.11 and $5.69 for a pair of front and rear floor mats, respectively? It was a long time ago. Even a custom 4-speed gear shift knob only set a buyer back a measly $3.69!

The most expensive option was the $343.20 air conditioning on the car. Next most expensive was the cost to shift your GTO with a 4-speed manual transmission. It cost $184.31. Just those two items alone added up to about one half of the option total. Other options costing over $50 included a push button radio ($61.09), rally cluster gauges that included a tachometer ($84.26) and power steering ($94.79.)

No doubt, those were the good old days. Nowadays one option on a mid-priced car can set you back more than what the owner paid for the entire, optioned GTO muscle car. Sometimes I think about how much fun it would be to have cars in dealerships today be priced like those for this 1966 GTO, or like my 1966 Chevy Corvair. I could afford a new car every six months, even as a middle class retiree. How much fun would that be!

• The answer to last week’s Guess the Car image: A late 1960s/early ‘70s Citroen DS.

• The answer to today’s trivia question: Blazer and Trailblazer.

Dar Davis founded the Lake Bluff Concours and chaired the event for many years. He has been writing this column since 1999. He can be reached at drd43@sbcglobal.net.

Trivia Question

Chevy is bringing back two names once used on SUVs two and three decades ago. What are the new models’ names? (The answer is at the end of today’s column.)